Little expresses concern over increase in COVID-19 cases

Gov. Brad Little at a news conference on Friday, May 22.

Gov. Brad Little began and ended a weekly telephone townhall meeting Wednesday by expressing concern over Idaho’s increase in COVID-19 cases.

Although Little gave the go-ahead June 11 for Idaho to advance to the fourth stage of the Idaho Rebounds reopening plan,  Central District Health moved Ada County back to stage three, effective Wednesday, after case numbers increased by nearly 50 percent over 10 days.

“As I stated two weeks ago, we just barely made it over our criteria last time, and things aren’t great right now,” Little said.

Little ended the one-hour AARP Idaho conference call by encouraging Idahoans to stay tuned for a news conference Thursday for a status report on stage four of Idaho’s reopening plan.

“I will tell you, it doesn’t look as good as I would like to see it about what it’s going to be tomorrow,” Little said. “But to stay true to the commitment from the very get-go, we are going to follow the data.”

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, joined Little on the call.

Education didn’t really come up.

Crapo praised Little’s response to the virus. He called it “a very serious pandemic” and said he is confident there will be a COVID-19 vaccine this year.

Little, meanwhile, may have set the stage for a special session of the Legislature, which only he can convene.

“I have yet to get the Legislature to say, ‘We want a special session for this issue,’” Little said. “They want to have a special session for a lot of different issues. And frankly, I’ve said I’m not opposed to a special session. You tell me what the issue is.”

Little said there are three top reasons he would consider calling a special session:

  • To discuss how to handle November’s election.
  • To discuss how the Legislature will handle the 2021 session if the virus is still spreading.
  • And a third mystery reason that Little did not disclose, saying only “it’s a little more complex.”

After this article was initially posted, Little’s spokeswoman Marissa Morrison Hyer posted on Twitter that the third reason for a special session would be to look at civil liability for COVID-19. In recent weeks, school officials planning to reopen in the fall have said liability is a concern. Some superintendents have been told insurance carriers won’t cover costs if someone contracts COVID-19 at school and sues.

On Tuesday, 15 House Republicans attempted to call a special session after criticizing the restrictions Little put in place to slow the coronavirus. Little did not authorize that session, and House members didn’t have anything close to a quorum anyway.

During the call, Little attempted to balance his concern about the increase in cases with other data showing Idaho was in good shape. He said Idaho was well positioned when it comes to ventilators and the availability of critical care beds and had not yet had a confirmed virus case in the state’s corrections system.

Within two hours of Little’s call ending, the Idaho Press reported that the state confirmed its first positive case at the Idaho State Correctional Center outside of Boise, which has now been placed on full secure status.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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